People with heart disease and other chronic conditions are usually prescribed one or more medications. But most take them only about half the time. Each year, this high rate of “nonadherence” leads to an estimated 125,000 deaths in the United States and costs the health care system between $100 billion and $300 billion.
The February 2012 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter looks at this huge problem and offers practical tips to help people take the medications they need.
Cost is one barrier, of course, but so are complicated dosing regimens, hassles getting prescriptions filled, and side effects. The February Heart Letter offers some ideas for getting beyond the barriers:
Cost. When you get a new prescription, check with your health plan to make sure it’s the lowest-cost option available. If not, talk with your doctor. Also, take advantage of free medication programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and the discount plans at large retailers and pharmacies.
Complexity. If you take several medications with different dosing schedules, talk with your doctor about how to streamline your medication regimen. Also, recent studies have shown that using mail-order pharmacies can improve medication adherence, presumably through convenience and cost advantages.
Side effects. Heart medications come with non-life-threatening but bothersome side effects, including fatigue, nausea, coughing, and muscle pain. Both doctors and pharmacists can offer effective strategies to ease side effects, but only if you talk with them about it.
The February Heart Letter feature on medication adherence also includes useful tips for establishing personalized memory aids for tracking which medications to take and when.
Read the full-length article: "Medications help the heart — if you take them"